Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Protesters & police clash in Athens before austerity vote — RT

Protesters & police clash in Athens before austerity vote — RT

Left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras is seeking parliamentary approval for pension cuts and tax hikes through 2020, as part of an agreement with global bailout creditors to continue vital loan payouts.

Greek police fired teargas at anti-austerity protesters rallying outside parliament in Athens on Thursday, as lawmakers debated spending cuts demanded by the country's worldwide lenders in exchange for bailout funds.

During a speech before the plenary shortly before the vote, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that Greece will exit the memorandum programs in 2018. In the meantime parliament is expected to vote in favour of the plan which would lower pensions and raise taxes by almost five billion euros, although compensation is planned for the most deprived along with subsidies for rents and medicine.

Without the new funds Greece could face bankruptcy as early as July when more than €7 billion in bond payments are due.

On Wednesday, at least 18,000 people demonstrated in Athens and the second city Thessaloniki in union-sponsored protests against the bill.

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A seamen's strike has parked ferries since the start of the week, while on Wednesday a general strike disrupted public services, grounding flights, stopping public transport and closing schools, museums and most hospital services.

A group attempted to provoke the officers before the building, with the latter responding with tear gas and stun grenades.

The cutbacks, worth some 4.9 billion euros ($5.45 billion), will be implemented through 2020 - a year beyond the mandate of Tsipras' government.

The danger is that if efforts to hit ambitious budget goals choke the economy so much the target is missed next year, pension cuts and tax hikes will tighten the noose further.

To sweeten the pill, Tsipras has promised to offset the new measures with tax relief also legislated on Thursday.

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The government says it will meet its target, pointing to a 4.2 percent primary surplus previous year compared with a target of 0.5 percent as evidence that the International Monetary Fund is too pessimistic.

"The counter-measures will provide relief to thousands", he said, adding that the entire package presented to parliament would open the way to a strong economic recovery and an end to Greece's supervision by its creditors.

"This is the only road map that guarantees. the country's exit from the great Greek recession", Houliarakis told lawmakers.

His government was soon faced by default and a run on banks, and later in that year he signed up to a third bailout. The banking restrictions and limits on cash withdrawals remain.

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